What certifications does a forklift operator need?

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Posting date: 11 August 2020
If you want to be qualified to operate a forklift, the first thing to do is to get the certification. A forklift operator is a position that requires a certification and is mandated by OSHA, CFR and insurance providers. Luckily the certification involves a training process that is easier than you might think. The training is a fairly quick and simple process and even better it doesn’t require more than a few hours to complete.  

There some slight variations to the training requirements according to state, but at the moment 28 states have OSHA-approved, state-wide occupational health and safety programs. To find out if your state has a specific state plan, visit the OSHA State Plans page. Your state may also have employer responsibilities and workers’ rights requirements that relate to forklifts that you will also need to follow.  

Where can I get certified and how much does it cost? 


There are three possible ways to get certification, the first being paying to take a private forklift training course, which usually costs somewhere between $150-200 for a two-day course. Second, if you’re employed by a company that requires the certification, they can sponsor you to take a course, and thirdly you can occasionally find community colleges that provide training for free. These can be hard to find but it’s always worth looking into. 

Training 


There are two ways to complete your training. The first and considered to be the best is in person. This usually takes a day or two and gives you the chance to have some hands-on training opportunities. The second is to take an online course. This is obviously a very convenient way to complete certification but not ideal as you will only be provided with the theoretical side of the training.  

Before you sign up for your course you will need to narrow down which forklift you need to be trained on. There are several different kinds of forklifts and they all require slightly different training so it is important to decide which machine you will be working with. There are sit-down rider trucks and stand-up trucks as well as order-pickers and counterbalances.  

Once you’ve signed up for your course, training consists of a 6-hour classroom lecture that focuses on OSHA regulations, health and safety as well as safe driving and other specialised topics. Once this is completed you are given a written exam which requires a passing grade of 75% but this can vary according to the school.  

After you have completed the practical training and passed your exam you will move on to the hands-on-training portion of your course. During your practical training your trainer will show you how to operate the forklift and ask you to repeat these exercises. The purpose is to show you the safest and most efficient way to complete your job. You will then be assigned a set of duties including pre-operational checks, loading, lifting and more complex tasks like manoeuvring into tight spaces, lifting heavier loads and moving the vehicle while on an incline. All of this will be carefully monitored by your trainer.  

Certification 


Your trainer will then evaluate you based on your performance and make the final call to certify you. Once certified you will be given a license card which you will need when applying for jobs or whenever asked for it by your manager. This license expires every 3 years and you will need to take a refresher course in order to renew it.  

Becoming a forklift operator will give you the opportunity to work in many different areas: you can find roles at a port, on a construction site, at an airport, in a warehouse or in a factory. With experience you could become a shift operator or a team leader, and with further training you could progress to becoming a forklift instructor or maintenance engineer.  A quick two-day course can open up a whole world of opportunity.  

Take a look at some of our forklift operator vacancies and take your next career step. 

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